A dust storm caused several accidents in Central Washington and closed Interstate 90 in both directions west of Ritzville on Sunday, while gusting winds brought scattered power outages to areas of Spokane and North Idaho.
By Sunday afternoon, 11 people had been injured in Grant County traffic accidents caused by reduced visibility. None of the injuries was life-threatening.
I-90 was closed from midnight until 8 p.m. due to blowing dust and near-zero visibility between Moses Lake and Ritzville, where the hazardous conditions caused a five-vehicle accident.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office asked motorists to stay off the roadways in that region.
The National Weather Service issued a dust storm warning for western Adams County and southern Grant County, where winds were expected to reach 25 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph.
Other roads in the area remained closed Sunday night, including the Lind-Warden Highway between Warden and state Route 21; Rosenoff Road between Moody and the Grant County line; Providence Road; and Lind-Hatton Road.
Wheeler Road between Moses Lake and Adams County had reopened, but motorists were advised that they traveled the road at their own risk.
Just before midnight Saturday, the blinding storm caused a five-vehicle accident in which eight people were injured on I-90 in Adams County, according to the Washington State Patrol.
The most seriously injured victim was airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Names and conditions of those injured were not available Sunday.
The crash occurred when a vehicle slowed in the dust storm and was struck from behind by another vehicle, which then left the highway and entered a ditch.
The first vehicle was struck again by a third vehicle, which was struck by two more oncoming vehicles.
All of the vehicles involved, including two semi tractor-trailer rigs, were totaled.
The crash is under investigation, but vehicular assault charges are pending against one driver. The trooper who responded reported that at least one driver was suspected of driving under the influence.
Officials said three people were injured in crashes elsewhere in the county.
Also Sunday, high winds brought down power lines, causing outages in Spokane County and North Idaho.
At the peak of the outages, Avista Utilities had about 8,000 customers without power, including about 2,000 just north of Spokane. Fewer than 1,800 Avista customers remained without power late Sunday afternoon.
About 1,500 Kootenai Electric customers in the Plummer and Harrison areas were without power after an Avista transmission line went down about 9:45 Sunday morning. Power was restored to most of those customers by 4 p.m.
There were other scattered outages reported in Bonner and Shoshone counties.